Saturday, October 12, 2013

Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi (Sunday Without God) - Review

Year: 2013
Studio: Madhouse
Genre: Mystery, Supernatural

Synopsis: [MAL]
God abandoned the world on Sunday. As a result, nobody in the world can die or reproduce. A little girl, Ai, is the gravekeeper for a village. She has prepared 47 graves for the eventual deaths of every member of the village. Later, a man who identifies himself as "Hampnie Hambart, the 'Man-eating Toy'," which is coincidentally the name that Ai's mother left behind as the name of her father, arrives in the village and slaughters everybody. Just what is going on?"

To be honest, this is not an anime I originally thought of reviewing, all owning to the moe-ness throwing me off the track. Well, what can I say, I've learned once again we shouldn't judge a book by its cover or an anime by its design – just because moe happens to be that one style closely associated with mindless fanservice doesn't mean it has to be. Make no mistake, it's not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination and having a Mary-Sue character at the centre of it certainly doesn't raise the bar, but in spite of the drawbacks, it turned out to be an enjoyable show oozing with beauty.

The mythos presented here are interesting to think about as they really blur the line between life and death. Of course, living-dead is no new invention in the realm of fiction (zombie is the other name we have for the species in question), but I've seen few shows that capitalize on the idea that death may not be the end of living, and there may be meaning to an existence beyond death. The premise is simple – god has abandoned earth, humanity stopped dying and also stopped giving birth, the only way for people to truly perish is to have a gravekeeper bury their body. This strangely fascinating situation brings up a controversial question: what happens when the dead don't want to complete the ritual? Since death in this sense is no longer dictated by nature, it doesn't mean a thing when the so called dead can continue to lead a productive life. They band together, form community and construct their own rules that even the living have to obey – such as the living must give up their life to gain permanent residency among the dead. In this world, death is no longer a state, but merely another social strata. 

Against the unifying theme of "god has abandoned earth", the story is divided into several distinct arcs with each one featuring a different story involving people impacted by the strange magic god put into effect. This is one of those series that doesn't seem to have a clear beginning or end, we don't know exactly how the world came to be or what it's going to become – ironically, we can almost say the same about our own world. You can say this is a typical case of the journey being more important than the destination. As for our heroine, I'm sorry to say she's a painfully bland character whose lack of development doesn't impress me in the least, but fortunately the supporting cast in each arc does a fine job drawing some attention. The first and last arc are my favourite, for the reason that they are both creatively written and emotionally stirring. The Hampnie Hambart arc betrays the mystery quite early on in the game, it wasn't hard to deduce his identity with multiple hints glaring us in the face, but when the truth let up, I still found myself every bit emotionally invested in the moment. Hampnie Hambart found his salvation through Ai, a daughter he never knew he had. She's the culmination of his existence and everything he ever loved, so he was able to pass on with regrets and a feeling of joy that's mundane but powerful. For a fantasy very much detached from reality, it managed to thoughtfully explore the core of our human experience – to achieve spiritual sustenance. The concluding arc has a denser plot than all the ones came before, just when I assume the mystery is resolved, it takes an unexpected turn and introduces another great twist. Now, the internal logic is far from foolproof – quite the opposite, the magical aspect is glossed over to the extent that it really doesn't hold up to scrutiny. But despite being the mess it is, I was nonetheless enthralled by the atmosphere, which in many instances is what this show is all about.

The main cast is honestly my least favourite part of the anime experience, they are for the most part one-dimensional, and pale in comparison to many of the supporting characters who take centre stage in their respective corner of the story but don't impact the grand scheme of things. By now, I've gotten used fantasy series ending on abrupt note and by its story-of-the-week nature, Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi was clearly setting us up for a non-conclusive finale. What we've been given leaves much to be desired, but regrettably I don't think we will get a sequel for a chance at a more cohesive ending. In retrospect, this whole anime has been wishy washy in its objective, I can hardly put into words what it's about if you really asked me to. I don't have much to say in regards to the animation and music, it's all fairly standard affair and nothing really stands out as far as my preference goes. All I can say is don't be put off by the moe bait and give it a chance, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Overall: 7.5/10 

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